Time for Faugheen to strut his stuff on road to Cheltenham

Poor old Nichols Canyon suffered a fatal fall in the Christmas Hurdle yesterday at Leopardstown.
Time for Faugheen to strut his stuff on road to Cheltenham

He was a great horse for the yard, winning eight Grade 1s, including the Stayers Hurdle at last season’s Cheltenham Festival. Horses like him are hard to find. He was a little character, and is a sad loss for his owners, the Wylies, and for the yard.

However, we must move on and, looking ahead to today’s action, it will be great to see Faugheen again, in the Ryanair Hurdle. Buveur D’Air strutted his stuff in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton, and now it’s up to Faugheen to strut his stuff.

He’s in great form at home. I’ve watched him work a few times and he looks to be in terrific order, and a repeat of his Morgiana run would be great. Fingers crossed he can win this and continue on the road back to Cheltenham.

I think our other runner, Cilaos Emery, can make it a one-two for the stable. I think he’s a better horse than Mick Jazz or Campeador and can chase Faugheen home.

Ballyward should win the two-and-a-half-mile maiden hurdle. He won a bumper over the trip here last year, and has schooled well over hurdles. Something went wrong with him in the spring, but he went out to grass 100% and came back in 100%, and is in great order. He’ll be hard to beat.

We run Let’s Dance and Karalee in the Grade 3 mares’ hurdle and they’re two nice sorts. Ratings would suggest Karalee is the one, but she hasn’t brought her homework to the track, for whatever reason and you can only give horses so many chances. She disappointed me very much the last day, whatever about the previous run, behind Apple’s Jade at the Punchestown festival.

Let’s Dance is in good order. She won the race last year, she likes the track, likes the trip, but she had no weight on her back in this race last year. She has a good chance, but there’s not much between the two.

The Grade 1 three-mile novice chase is a fascinating race. There’s no doubt Monalee is the best horse in the race, and Bon Papa is a lovely horse, but it’s only their second runs over fences, and my experience tells me this is a race for hardened horses. I would much prefer a battle-hardened horse, the likes of Jury Duty, Rathvinden or Shattered Love — those horses with plenty of runs under their belt and, on that basis, I think our own Rathvinden might be the answer.

Minella Encore, who runs in the bumper, was very much workmanlike when he won in Fairyhouse, but he should have improved for the run. Hopefully, he will have stepped up from that and he has been working well, but we won’t see the very best of him until he goes jumping.

In Limerick, Caro Des Flos runs in the first race, a maiden hurdle. He chased home Al Boum Photo at Thurles on his first run for us. That was a promising effort and he is in good old order, but I’m not certain he’ll handle the ground.

Kate Appleby Shoes makes her chasing debut in the mares’ beginners’ chase. Don’t worry about her last run, when she pulled up at Punchestown. I rode her that day, the ground was quick, and she didn’t handle it. She wants it up to her knees, so she’ll love the conditions, which look pretty hard work, and she should take beating. Whistle Dixie is no back number, and can follow her home.

In the Grade 2 novice hurdle, I think Fabulous Saga can gallop his rivals into the ground, including our other runner, Ainsi Va La Vie. He did that the last day, in Cork, when coming home virtually alone.

In his previous runs, on quicker ground, horses were just able to get to him and go by him and leave him standing, but, you saw what he did in testing ground the last day. He’ll take some beating around there today. Ainsi Va La Vie is a fair mare, but he will be hard to beat.

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